Nerves might have rattled them Thursday, but nothing was able to shake the confidence of the Crimson Bears Friday - even while they played a Colony team that hammered them earlier in the year.
After a first-round loss to Bartlett on Thursday, the Juneau-Douglas High School avoided their second-straight seventh-place finish in the 4A Alaska state basketball championship tournament with a 65-52 victory over the Colony Knights Friday at the Sullivan Arena in Anchorage.
"Obviously I prefer the result to last year," JDHS coach Steve Potter said. "It was nice because they pounded us pretty bad up there."
When they faced off in February, it was the Crimson Bears' fifth game in seven days, and the last in a four-game road trip. Potter said JDHS had trouble matching Colony's physicality in that game. Colony made the Bears pay, as it went on to a 58-42 victory.
JDHS junior Cody Grussendorf credited the win to a better defensive effort and the ability to shut down Colony point guard John Palmer, who punished the Bears in February.
With the win, the third-seeded Bears earned a chance to play first-seeded West Saturday for fourth place in the state.
"In the first game of state we just came out nervous. We've been losing in the first round like every single year," Grussendorf said. "I guess today we just had that first-round game under our belts. We came out strong."
Grussendorf said the Bears can take solace in avenging their loss to Colony and knowing they made it to the third day of the tournament.
"I'm just glad we beat Colony," he said. "It was the first time we've beat them in seven straight games."
West trounced JDHS 101-47 in an early season rout and the Bears are looking forward to a chance at redemption.
"We would certainly like to get another crack at them," Potter said. "I hope they're not 54 points better than us, but maybe they are.
Potter said a chance to play against such a talented team would be a good opportunity, especially for returning players.
West came out on the losing end of a shocking upset Thursday. Wasilla knocked off the tournament favorites with a 67-64 victory.
West routed Lathrop 85-44 Friday for the chance to play JDHS at 2 p.m. Saturday at the Wells Fargo Center.
"We should be good if we stick to our stuff," Grussendorf said. "They showed they can be beat. It can be done."
The Bears showed they are capable competitors Friday.
JDHS made six of its first nine shots to start the game, eventually taking an 18-14 lead after the first quarter.
JDHS Leading scorer Eric Gross drew his third foul with 6:58 remaining in the half, but Cody Grussendorf made up for lack of an inside scoring threat by shooting 5-for-7 from the field in the first half, including three triples. He also shot 5-for-5 from the line to score 18 first-half points and lead the Bears to a 38-26 lead at halftime.
The Bears started the third with four quick points to extend their lead to 40-26 with 6:59 remaining in the quarter, but they cooled off quickly. JDHS went nearly five minutes without hitting a field goal, and Colony took advantage.
The Knights went on a 17-4 run that stretched into the fourth quarter, cutting the deficit to 46-43 at the start of the fourth.
Colony kept it close early in the fourth, but the Crimson Bears went on a 13-4 run to close out the game.
Grussendorf scored a game-high 24 points to go along with four rebounds and three assists.
Eric Gross added 12 points and five boards, and Colin Gozelski had 11 points and six rebounds. Corey Mahar shot 100 percent from the free-throw line for all six of his points. He also grabbed seven boards and had two steals.
Chris Scott led Colony with 16 points and five rebounds, while John Palmer added 12 points and Bryce Jacobson contributed 10 points and six rebounds.
JDHS forced 18 turnovers compared to the 10 it committed.
Brad Cohen is the sports editor for the Ketchikan Daily News.